Now you’ve done it! You’ve gone and uttered the most loathed phrase in voiceover. The single sentence that sends dozens of eyes rolling every day;
“People tell me that I have a great, (pleasant, interesting or unique) voice."
If VO coaches and professional VO talent had a dollar for every time they’ve heard that; we’d have a lot more money. I hear it hundreds of times per year and only about 5% of the people who utter those words actually end up making a living doing voiceovers.
But to be fair I'm going to help you analyze this statement and understand what it really means when numerous people have told you that you have a “great” voice.
First, identify which of the follow scenarios fits you:
Scenario #1: You work with the general public, or in a call center, spend lots of time on the phone, or others hear you speak often while you work. You have probably heard that you have a good voice and it really shouldn’t surprise you. Your employer is technically the first person who identified your ‘gift for gab’. They hired you, partially, based on your eloquence and pleasant sound.
Scenario #2: Random people, friends, family members and acquaintances tell you that “you should be on the radio.” People will often identify outgoing, well spoken, witty individuals as someone who should be “on-air”. To a lay-person, you are displaying many of the basic attributes that society associates with disc jockeys. You likely exude a high level of confidence and comfort when speaking to others.
Scenario #3: People instantly recognize your voice. They tell you that you have a unique or distinct sound. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. If your unique sound is nasal, whiny, grating, abrasive or effeminate then it might be that folks are spinning a negative about you into a positive. It’s hard to say until you get them to tell the true meaning of their statement.
Scenario #4: You have a big set of pipes. Yes it’s true, many of the successful men employed in the voiceover arts have pipes so deep they would make Barry White sound like a tiny mama's-boy. However having a deep voice is only one small part of what makes a male voice talent successful. In fact, normal everyday sounding voice actors far out way the ones with all the bass.
Now, the bad news…
If your voice has not been thoroughly evaluated and validated by a reputable voiceover coach or a voiceover expert, the compliments you receive are nice, but they don't make you a candidate for voiceover work. Now, before you become defensive or defeated, please, hear me out.
Voiceover is one of the only professions that people assume is easy. “I can speak, people say I have a great voice – I can get paid to use it”. I do not know why this misconception exists. It’s just not that simple. Voiceover talent train for years in order to become skilled professionals. They did not wake up one morning and get paid to speak. So unfortunately, all these compliments might be filling your head with grand visions of being paid to speak. It’s unlikely that you have the built-in, ready-to-go skills needed to be a voiceover artist today.
Let’s say you have an amazing physique and people find you to be attractive and fit. You wouldn’t go out and try to complete in a triathlon just because someone said you have a great pair of legs – would you? You may indeed have a great speaking voice but how is your untrained voice going to hold up behind a microphone, while reading copy you’ve never seen, with a director, producer and client barking instructions in your ear? If you want to be a triathlete you have to train your great set of legs (and the rest of your body) for the task. If you want to be a voiceover talent you have to train your great set of vocal cords (and the rest of your body) for the task.
Ever watch American Idol or American’s Got Talent? How often do you hear the judges’ deal with hopefuls who are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they CAN sing. It usually ends in disaster. Many of those hopefuls also brag about ALL the people who told them that they are an excellent singer – we often find that their fan club is very wrong. Just as singing in the shower is not the same as singing in Carnegie Hall, speaking in normal conversation everyday is not the same as doing paid voiceover work.
Ready For Some Good News?
By researching the process of how to becomes a voiceover talent this far; you are officially a student of the art of voiceover. There are two things all great students must come prepared with: a willingness to learn and an open mind.
First, cast aside all previous notions and assumptions of what you think voiceovers are and actually begin the process of learning what they truly are. Next, you will need to learn how to use your voice in a whole new way and for the purpose of your new career.
This means that you cannot compare your voice to someone you hear performing a commercial on the radio and say; “look, look, I can speak better than this person!” you have no way of gauging, at the moment, if that person is good or bad, or how skilled they even are by professional standards. You don't have perspective, yet. There are many bad examples of voiceover work – you don’t want to be better than the worst – you want to be as good as the best.
The business of voiceover is vast and rewarding. It might very well be your true calling in life. But please do not mistake it for a fast buck. That it most certainly is not. But it is a complex and wonderfully artistic career where you can be your own boss, have fun and love what you do for a living. Expect this journey to take time, patience, money and skill; (lots of skill) but it will not require a ‘good’ voice. It will require that you know how to use the voice you have.
How to become a part of the Voiceover Community:
If you are just starting or within the first year of your voiceover venture its imperative that you become an active part of the voiceover community. Unless you live in NY or LA, however, don’t expect to find a gaggle of voiceover talent meeting at a local coffee shop on a regular basis. Instead you can rely on social networking to help you mingle with talent around the globe without ever having to leave your home.
Facebook has a handful of great groups where talent communicate regularly about the industry.
I recommend that you first take time to observe, read, listen and watch the activity on before jumping in. Spending a few weeks as a voiceover voyeur will help you to feel more confident about interacting with the industry and will greatly broaden your understanding of the industry too.
Understanding WHERE to Find Voiceover Work:
I often hear newbies wanting to soliciting local businesses about their VO services. It’s not the most effective way to go about obtaining voice work. Most local businesses don’t really know all the advantages and uses of a voiceover talent. If the company you approach has not already used voiceover services then they likely may not know what to do with you. And if you’re not a skilled audio producer then you may only be capable of delivering a portion of a job they need and that leaves them having to seek out additional parties to finish the work.
Local businesses usually offer very sub-par rates to voiceover talent. It may not be worth driving all over town and spending days on the phone only to earn $25 per on-hold-message. These are not the rates professional talent work for – and neither should you. Cut rates only drive down the industry's worth.
You can forget all about local radio stations too. They don’t typically hire outside voice talent. Most radio stations have an in-house staff that is obligated to voice anything the station needs for free.
There is a more important reason however, to not over-pursue local work. If you live in a large market and you are successful at obtaining a plentiful amount of local VO jobs your voice will quickly over saturate the market. If a performer becomes too familiar to a single area their voice will lose impact. When your voice fails to be unique; its ability to make your client’s message stand out diminishes.
When a talent over saturates the market clients become less likely to hire you. Treat your pursuit of voiceover bookings with the same attitude you would about stock market investing – diversify! The country is vast and the internet is a super highway that helps you reach folks in place you’ve never even heard of.
It’s ok to spend some time looking for large voiceover opportunities in your immediate area but keep local business to around 15-25% of your total VO income. Broadening your job search ensures that your voice is fresh in your own back yard and that you are always introducing your voice to a new audience.
The best possible way to find work when you are new to voiceovers is not to spend lots of money on market place, pay-to-play and audition lead services, nor is it to blindly blanket an entire geographic area. Instead your success will come from strategically planning a course of action that revolves around your family and friends as well as previous business experience.
Take a moment to think about former jobs and employers, hobbies you have and clubs and organizations you belong to. You must find an area in which you are already an expert and apply your new knowledge of voiceovers to that expertise.
Nurses who leave the medical profession to become voice actors often find that the fastest road to booking voice work is in medial & pharmaceutical narrations. It’s a reasonable place for them to start because as a nurse he or she certainly has more healthcare knowledge than most, and large medical terms and Latin names will likely be familiar.
Define your existing area of expertise and see if you can use that knowledge to being to carve a niche for yourself in voiceovers. It will be rewarding and very likely profitable.
Gabrielle Nistico, Gabby Nistico, The Voiceover Vixen, The Business First VO Coach, #VoiceoverVixen #VoiceOnFire #BusinessFirstVOCoach Voiceover, Success, Entrepreneur, Marketing Strategies, Income, Home Studio, Recording, Microphone, Professional, Coaching, Voiceover Coaching, VO Coaching, Voiceover Coaches, Working Actors, Los Angeles, New York, Charlotte, North Carolina, Intro to Voiceover, Voiceover Beginners